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tv   This Is America With Dennis Wholey  PBS  April 1, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EDT

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>> our guest on "this is america" is sally bedell smith, former cultural reporter for "time" and "the new york times ," contributing editor for "vanity fair" and author of the new york times best seller, "elizabeith the queen." it is good to be with you. thank you for coming. >> thank you, dennis. >> is it fair to say that queen elizabeth is the most famous woman in the world? am i would say so. particularly since she has been
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clean for 60 years now, long this serving world leader for sure. >> longest serving world leader. >> absolutely. >> when they say 60 years, why should americans -- although i know we are invested and will see -- but why should we know, why should we care this is her 60th anniversary of sitting on the from? >> she is only the second british monarch to get that milestone in 1000 years. the first one was her great great grandmother queen victoria, who celebrated her diamond jubilee in 1897 when she was 78 years old. she remained on the throne almost 64 years, just shy of 64 years. if this queen, who is now 85, is still queen in september 2015, she will surpass her great great-grandmother's record. a she seems on track to do that. >> she is in good health. >> very good health.
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she's still rides horseback on the weekend. and prince philip, who is 90 years old, i was talking to a friend of his the other day and they said he was out doing his carriage driving. somebody who had heart surgery a few months ago. the two have unbelievable stamina. >> let me ask this question, because it shows up in your book. somebody asked between one time, what do you do? what does look we do? >> it is a fair question. at a garden party, she was introduced to a woman and she asked, what do you do? the queen a few days later said i had no idea what what to say. and all the years i have been meeting people, nobody asked me the question. this was somewhat unexpected to me -- she does a lot. she is not just a figurehead. she has a wide range of duties. she serves as head of state, obviously, representing our country at home and abroad.
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she has a very regimented work day. she spends three, four hours a day, mainly in the morning and also in the evening, going over what are known as our government boxes, and they are red boxes that can only be opened with four separate keys and inside are all manner of government documents. confidential intelligence reports, reports on the proceedings of parliament, reports on the prime minister's cabinet meetings, diplomatic cables from overseas. so, she has a great range of information she takes in every day. you might say, what does she do with the information? she has now 60 years of it in her head. also, part of her work day, is to have private audiences. the most famous private audiences are the weekly audience as she has with her prime ministers, of which she has had 12.
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starting with winston churchill, who was born in the 19th century and served in our great great-grandmother's army, all the way up to david cameron, her 12th prime minister, who was born three years after her youngest son. >> let me just interject this question -- what is the difference between the responsibilities of the queen and the responsibilities of the prime minister? >> blast -- the power and the juror -- glory are separate. the prime minister is the head of his government and he is responsible for all the government's decisions. but when the prime minister comes to visit the queen once a week in a private audience room -- nobody there, nobody taking notes, completely confidential -- eat, and in one case, she, margaret thatcher, feels free to ask her advice. her remit is to be consulted, to
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encourage, and to warn. not to specifically give the device -- which is very interesting. what she does is she asks really good questions, and she may prompt -- i have written a lot in the book about her relationships with all of her prime ministers. even if they come in somewhat skeptical -- what can i learn from this woman? they learn very quickly -- first of all, if they don't come prepared and she catches them. her first labour from investors said he felt like a chastened school boy. when she meets with prime minister, she would also have meetings with senior figures in the military. >> she is the head of the military. >> she is the head of the military. senior figures -- figure in the church of england and other churches, church of scotland. judiciary, diplomats from other countries, her own diplomats, and she also read an enormous amount of correspondence and
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she keep surfing gear on what people's concerns are. >> there is a difference between ruling and reighning. >> somebody once said when they were talking about margaret thatcher and the queen, they said, the queen is sort of like your mother. she sends you to school. and margaret thatcher is like the headmistress -- headmistress who lays down the rules. so, she has this great body of knowledge. and she, by all accounts, applies a very wisely. she knows her limits. she knows she should not make overt public statements, for example. she has to maintain neutrality and sort of the above politics. i think all the people who need her really value having somebody in that position who is sort of a wise guy the -- why is guide. >> must be difficult to balance
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history, tradition, and also being a modern monarch. >> yes. and that is the subtitle of my book. i was really surprised by the degree that all along the way she has modernized. not overtly, sort of incrementally. so, it does not upset people too much. the pace has probably quick and a bit since diana because the whole experience of having gone through that difficult week after a day and of died, when people sort of turned against the queen for not coming to london right away -- so one of the things they did after diana. and she gave a speech before diana's funeral saying there are lessons to be learned the way diana lived and also lessons after her death. for the first time they went to a political pollster. he did focus groups and a lot of
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polling. they were concerned that the public perceived them as being too inward looking. what he was able to help them identify was what the values were that people ascribe to the monte -- monarchy, why it was important how they could relate to people more, how they could respond more quickly. >> let me get one more question before we take a quick break. your research is incredible. >> thank you. >> the people you have access to, you have met the queen on a couple of occasions. what surprises you or or -- intrigues you for it in sight -- excites you about now being on the inside? what did you learn that really blew your way? >> obviously learning the way she goes about her work was fascinating to me. but kind of partying curtain and learning what she was like as a wife and a mother and a friend,
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and finding examples of all sorts of personality and character traits people are not terribly aware of. that she can be very cozy. one of her friends told me about the time he was painting a portrait of prince philip at windsor castle and the queen invited him to have lunch in the dining room, and he walked in, and there were no butlers around to serve the meal. instead, she insisted on serving from the buffet, and not only that, she also cleared the table, stacking the plates and everything. images of her as a country woman. she is very down to earth. relaxing with her friends. she loves to sing, she loves to dance. sitting on the box on one of the islands when they were on a cruise and belting out songs. >> and she has a sense of humor. >> and also humility.
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humility was not expected. >> fascinating to listen to you talk about the queen. "elizabeith the queen: the life of a modern monarch." we are way behind on time. sit tight. "this i america." >> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. singapore airlines. the singapore tourism board, there is something for everyone. singapore airlines,a great way to fly.
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poongsan corp., forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation. afo communications. the rotondaro family trust. >> the book is absolutely terrific on some money different levels, not only to get to know the queen, the family, how it operates inside, but also some of the history. and people know the movies in the last couple of years, "the king's speech" which i gather the queen has seen, but she did not see "the queen," of the helen mirren film. her father was a george vi and he took over because his brother, edward the a's, decided he did not want to be king. george died pretty young and she becomes queen at the moment of his death, the best pitcher and all of this later on.
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but she was 25 years old. home schooled. in the war, she helped out her father. she was a mechanic. >> she learned how to lead breaks -- bleed brakes. >> but it was homeschooling. >> it was typical of women, particularly in the aristocracy and certainly in the royal family. but that being said, she had high quality governesses and then when she was 10 years old, as you said, her father became king quite unexpectedly. she then embarked on a more focused curriculum was a very erudite tudor named sir henry martin who was at eton college, the prestigious boys' school down the road. she spent six years being tutored by him in the english
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constitution, which is very unlike ours. an accumulation of laws and practices over time, not a written document. and there were volumes she studied and annotated and made marginal notes due in and underlined. you can see how conscientious she was. she also learned a lot from her parents. >> her mother died at 101 years of age. so, she would have been the queen mother. when she got to be queen, her sister, princess margaret, said to her, does this mean -- >> when she was 10 and her father became king, margaret said does this mean you will be queen someday? and then princess elizabeth said, yes, it does. and margaret said, poor you. >> is it the weight of the world on her shoulder -- queen, wife,
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mother, just amazing? >> it is a lot further to carry. she was in kenya when her father died of her heart ailment in the middle of the night. she was off on a tour with her husband. >> she had been married to prince philip. >> to prince philip, back in 1947. she had a three-year old son, 18-month-old daughter and was off on a tour representing her father and came back and had her appearance before the accession council, a formal council thus recognizes her as the new monarch, and she talked about the heavy burden on her shoulders. but she accepted it in a . what one of her archbishops of cadbury told me was glad service. it was something she knew was a destiny. she accepted it, and subsequent to actually becoming queen, she
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had her coronation in june of 1953, which was where she made a very solemn vow to continue in her role until she died. >> until that. >> yes. >> how many palaces are there? i am up to at least five. >> obviously she has buckingham palace. >> windsor castle. >> the castle. >> balmoral. >> and then there is the palace in edinburgh, and then several private residences -- balmoral and the stand -- in the scottish highlands and then one in north -- norfolk. >> 775 in buckingham palace alone. >> buckingham palace is much more of an office building and a home. most of those rooms are offices. and it is not a very cozy place -- offices or vast public rooms
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used for entertaining. >> i want to know what it is like to live with people like the master of the robes, master of the horses, women of the bedchamber, pages, ladies in waiting, countesses, girls, dukes, barron's. how do people live in that environment? is it fun? is it stodgy? >> she obviously has to go round and do a lot of -- she has a very sad calendar over the course of the year. it is outlined a year ahead. six months in advance, they fill in the details. there are a lot of set rituals she has to follow. but she does have time to have fun. she has done on the weekends. she loves to ride. she goes out with their friends on shooting weekends where she has all of her working dogs, and she goes around and picks up the pheasants that are husband and
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other people killed, shooed out of this guy. -- shoot out of the sky. she had not known any other life. because of her position, everybody treats her with a special deference, including her children and closest friends. they all have the courtesy and out when they greet her and when they say goodbye to her. i talked to one for friends who knew her in childhood, and he told me about the time the royal family came to visit his family at their castle in scotland. and he was fooling around and he took her and hollister on the sofa. and his father, who was the 12 earl, grabbed him by the arm and took and into another room and punched him in the stomach and said "never do that too will take." there is the deference she expects, so there is an invisible wall.
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she lives and on world. >> there is a little reference in your book to 2008. in 2008, prince charles and bid 560 official engagements. queen handed 534 and a queen, this is only four years ago, 2008, did 417 official engagements. and then there is all of this travel and these long trips. i did not ask this question -- what is the difference between the commonwealth, the united kingdom, and in the past, the empire? >> the united kingdom -- she is the queen of the united kingdom of england, scotland, wales, in northern ireland, and she is also the queen of 15 rounds around the world that include canada, jamaica, australia, new
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zealand, and others, and then there are 14 foreign territories. now, the commonwealth is the former british empire, that starting in the late 1940's, all the companies that had been part of the british empire, led by india and ireland and others, they began to become republics and they became independent. the commonwealth has stayed together. it now has 54 nations. it is a voluntary association. it is dedicated to promoting good government and the environment and a whole range of issues and the queen is the head of it. that is a kind of a ceremonial role. >> so, can countries topped out of the commonwealth? >> and they can be kicked out for human rights violations -- zimbabwe was, for example, and others have been throughout the
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years. and they can also apply to be admitted. >> she played kind of a behind- the-scenes role in south africa. >> absolutely. i have quite a few conversations with the former prime minister mulroney, who was very much involved in all the factions taken to try to get rid of apartheid and all the economic sanctions and there were a lot of controversial moments during that period. there were moments when it seemed the commonwealth might even split up over it because there was disagreement on the degree to which sanctions should be -- and the queen definitely worked behind the scenes of flying kind of, as brian mulroney said -- she got them together and they had kind of an elevated discussion. she never expressed her opinion. >> she doesn't. >> but she gets people to come together. she got margaret thatcher, who was very much opposed to given -- giving rhodesia independence,
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for example, and she helped, as everybody said, bring down the temperature and get people to talk to each other. >> let me slip in a few things before we run out of time. she sleeps very well. she has no driver's license. no passport. she loves her horses, dogs, crossword puzzles. very tolerant of other people's bad behavior. does not like confrontation. and that has caused her in regards to princess margaret and regarding the kids as well. >> i think so. >> because of four kids -- they have four children. charles, anne, edward, and andrew, and they have all had problems. >> the 3 obviously. >> edward -- >> in the beginning, she had any bump a star, but it would's white is one of the queen's favorites -- she had a bumpy
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start, but his wife is one of the queen's favorite. >> why did it fergie message bubp? >> she was a favorite and win fergie misbehaved and had a message delivered -- divorce, it was the queen who reached out to her. >> she could have stayed in the family if she did not try to sell -- >> we are talking about some judgment problems. >> diana, the princess of kent, michael says she was a catastrophe, a time bomb, and should have seen it in advance, an accident waiting to happen. that was so unfortunate. people loved her, but that was a trying period of time. in a very difficult period for the monarchy, almost until the end of the 1990's. the basic problem is diana and charles really didn't know each other when i got married.
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there was a big age gap, and it was a complete mis-alliance. they have very little in common, even though she was the one of the top aristocratic families, they had been part of the group of whig aristocrats who brought over one of the first kings of hanover in the late 18th century -- the germans who came over from hanover to be king george i and his descendants. >> i like the queen's saying -- i must be seen to be believed. i like her saying that. and the thing she was in bermuda -- or some other place, on one of for tours, and one of her pr folks says -- they finally got the point of the queen. here is my question -- what is the point of the queen? that is the question. >> the point of the queen is
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that she -- first of all, she has been doing her job now for 60 years. she has been a force for stability, for unity, for continuity. she exists above politics. she lives by example. she sets a very good example through her devoted service and living according to the values that she symbolizes. she recognizes service. that is a very important part of her job. over 60 years she has given out over 400,000 awards and honors for people, four civilians and people in the military, for serving their country. she once said, people need pats on the back sometimes -- it would be a very gloomy world without it. >> sally bedell smith's but, "elizabeith the queen: the life of a modern monarch." we are fascinated in america
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with the british royalty. this is the diamond jubilee. what can we expect, especially in june? we just have about 30 seconds. >> there is going to be a blow out weekend in the first weekend of june. there will be a extraordinary liver procession, 8 miles up the tens, thousands of votes of all kinds, including neo tudor oil barge and there will be a concert, fireworks, carriage procession. it will be wonderful. >> thank you so much for the education and for the book. thank you, sally. >> my pleasure. >> for informational about my new book "chance of a lifetime" an online video for all "this is america programs, visit our web site,
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>> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. the singapore tourism board. poongsan corp., forging a higher global standard. afo communications, and the rotandaro family trust. rotandaro family trust.
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